While Joe West retired at the conclusion of the 2021 season, the long-time Major League Baseball umpire has found a way to keep himself in the conversation, perhaps even more than when he was on the field.
5460: The Joe West Podcast debuted Monday. Not surprisingly, the first episode was one hour and 40 minutes long, which borders on being a radio show, as opposed to a podcast. In it, Wests revisits some of the most notable moments of of his umpiring career, reflects on his time as a high school and college football star and not-so-humbly brags about some of the famous people he's met throughout the course of his life.
West umpired in 5,460 games, an MLB record. Over that time, the man affectionately referred to as "Cowboy" earned himself a reputation as the sport's most polarizing umpire. Because of that, when he was recognized away from his job, West would sometimes have tricks played on him:
"... This is when I passed Bruce Froemming for second place on the all-time list for games worked. So, I'm gonna break his record in Minnesota. So we had a night off and we're going to Manny's. If you see any airline book that says what the best steakhouses in America are, Manny's is going to be one of them.
"... So we go in and sit down, and sure enough they bring us this menu. The menus at Manny's, they are like a scroll -- they are like 3-by-4 menus. And they bring me this little spiral ring notebook for my menu. So I'm thinking 'Something is wrong here, I didn't get a menu like everyone else.' So I opened it up, and it's in braille. I saw everybody in the room laughing at me, staring at me."
For what it's worth, Ump Scorecards says that in his final season as an umpire, West had a 92.0% accuracy rating calling balls and strikes. That was lower than the 93.0% mark from Ángel Hernández, viewed by many as the worst umpire in league history. Quite a few other umpires had marks equal to or just above West, but only three umpires out of 100 -- Brian O'Nora, Ed Hickox and Laz Diaz -- finished with lower marks in terms of accuracy calling balls and strikes in 2021.